THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE
AND OTHER POEMS


By
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON




 

CUPID IN THE OFFICE



PRELUDE


We buried in Mount Auburn last July

The gentle, clerkly, wan old bookkeeper,
Who left to me his sheaf of casual verse.

“You’ll smile,” he wrote, “to learn I poetized,
However little.  Here are all my rhymes;

5

Too intime, surely, to be put in print
While we two lived, with whom the verses deal.
How curious that it really comforts me
To dream you’ll give them vogue, and so prolong
In mortal memory a faint, fair wraith

10

Of her who, while I live, is clearly shrined,
Smiling, within my unforgetting heart.”

They give the poignancy of Commonplace;
Accents of fondness, no more like the feigned
Which forms the stock of many a polished strain,

15

Than fields and woods enwreathed with moving mists
And changeful to the phase of hour and year
Are like a painted canvas of the scene.


I

REVERIE


          DOVE-TINTED, urban-bred, secure,
     Nowise self-centred, quite self-sure,

20

     Priestess of Business, Office-nun,
     And yet her girlhood scarcely done!

          That balanced poise of confidence
     Is yet young maiden Innocence, [Page 121]
     Whose deep, gray eyes undreaming wait

25

     The woman’s dearest boon from Fate.

          My reverie, though it vision plain
     Her lucency, can scarce retain
     The radiant smile, with humor fraught,
     But quick repressed, as if she thought

30

     It wrong to let her seniors guess
     That Mirth may visit business;
     Yet flits it back in utter charm,
     As if to smile were n’t really harm.
          It is that smile which brings surprise

35

     Jumping to my delighted eyes,
     And makes my heart so yearn she were
     Absorbed in Woman’s natural care.

          Cupid, though growing gray I be,
     Incline her heart, that I may free

40

     Her life from office drudgery.


II
 
THE CHRISTMAS WALK


How brisk in frost we stept together west!
The sky, as pearly as her lucent face,
Wore, too, the faint austere which gives her grace,
The sacredness that calms my heart to rest.

45


Up toward the Roxbury hill, whose builded crest
Outlined a rim serrate of flamelike sky,
Her virginal beauty flushed,—and oh, the shy
Gleam of her pleasure as her glove caressed,
Upon her heart abloom, my glowing rose!

50


And yet, before our Christmas walk was done,
Its scarlet loveliness of petals froze, [Page 122]
Whereby upon the stalk it drooped and died;
So cruel shone the nightward slanting sun
This day of our first marching side by side.

55


III

CUL-DE-SAC


“DEAR Dove, both Love and Life command we wed,”
Spoke I.  She smiled and shook her sage young head,
And mused, and gravely said: “Before we met,
Life had ruled straight our page, and rules it yet.
Though Love be come to light that even Way,

60

What else has changed?  The filial tasks of day,
Your day and mine, cannot be put aside
That selfish Love alone be glorified.
Did daily duty done not keep us blest
Our infinite love were infinite unrest.

65

Our separate earnings still our Aged need—
Spare me, dear love, you shake me when you plead.”


IV

                
APRIL HOLIDAY


     AN hour by rail, then up the hill
     Where Talking Brook forever calls
     In glee that never April rill

70

     Could tinkle lovelier madrigals,
     Where pussy-willows’ silver spires
     So bloomy that a touch might harm,
     And frogs in monotoning choirs
     Chirp their drowsed miracle of charm.

75


     The World, for once, was ours alone;
     Its freshening hazy hillsides high, [Page 123]
     Their billowy woodlands budding zone
     Suspiring tops that merged in sky.
     How fast our steps in crispy brown

80

     Of last year’s rustling foliage fled,
     To kneel to fair Spring-beauty’s crown
     And dear hepatica’s starry head!

     All was our Paradise, and we
     Were Eve and Adam gathering flowers,

85

     Wotting of no forbidden tree
     Or bloom in Sussex County bowers,
     Until the Man and Dog of Wrath
     Came, at our trespass raging wild
     Before they saw her in their path

90

     Smiling as one who friendly smiled.

     Amazed, disarmed, as if in shame,
     How queer the embarrassed farmer stood!
      “’T ain’t my old dog you got to blame,
     I larnt him chase folks out ’n this wood.

95

     But, Laws, ye’re welcome any day!
     Come when ye like—ye won’t intrude.”
     While at her feet old Brindle lay
     Fondled, fond squirming, quite subdued!

      “Miss Tact!” when they were gone I laughed,

100

      “Miss Nerve! O cool Miss Impudence!”
     She beamed demurely while I chaffed,
     Saying, “I am Miss Common-sense!
     What earthly use to run away?
     What sense to look one bit dismayed?

105

     It’s gentleness that wins the day—
     But, Oh, dear, was n’t I afraid.” [Page 124]


V
 
CONSOLATION


     A TENDER miracle so blends
     The separate life which is our fate
     With gentle joys, that it transcends

110

     The bridals of the fortunate.

     With beams too delicate for name—
     So sunny warm, so frosty pure,
     I tell her that our business-flame
     Of love unfailing, glows secure.

115


      “We have the Best,” she says.  We smile,
     We sigh as if it were not so;
     Yet deep in either heart the while
     We know The Best is what we know.


VI

THE PURITAN


“I SHUN the theatre.  It’s not the place,”

120

She said, “that I dislike—no—all the sights
Of Orchestra and Audience and the space
Of brilliancy and life are my delights
When people talk at ease between the Acts.
But, oh, the Stage, the piteous puppets there

125

Posturing, ranting, and without a share
In the quick farce and tragedy of Facts!—
Unless the essential horror of a Play
Is that bright beings in God’s image made
Should fume their little spans of strength away

130

In simulating fancied joy and grief
While really desperate that the mummers’ trade
Holds them from useful Work, the soul’s relief.” [Page 125]


VII

                     
KISMET


     QUIET, my heart!  My brain must be
     Untroubled by your anxious pain.

135

     I must be laboring patiently
     To-day, to-morrow, oft again.
           Quiet, my heart, by day, for night
           Shakes me with all your wild affright.

     Let Lois live, though crippled sore

140

     For life. O God, incline, I pray,
     Thy will to this which I implore!
     And let me earn our bread each day!
           Quiet, my heart,—thy terror lies!
           It cannot be that Lois dies!

145


VIII

HEPATICAS

              
(THE NEXT APRIL)


LOIS, alone I’ve walked the way
By Talking Brook to Fairy Falls
We trod a year ago to-day.
      And did you hear such bluebird calls?
      And is the April green as fresh?

150

      And sings our Brook its cheery tune?
Yes, Darling, and the frogs enmesh
Again such magic in their croon
That you seemed listening with me there.
      And where the farmstead buildings stand

155

      Dwell still the Man and Dog who were
      So angry first, and then so bland?
Dear Dove, the Dog came barking wild, [Page 126]
The greybeard roared him on in rage
Just as when you their wrath beguiled.

160

      How fond you dream I did assuage
      That angry pair, who perhaps advanced
      Half joking at our trespassing.
To-day a thing more touching chanced;—
For when I cried, “This day last Spring

165

You bade Miss Lois ‘come again’”—
      Oh, did that man remember still,
      And for my sake was once more fain
      To let you search for flowers his hill?
Lois—he left his plough awhile

170

To pluck for you this bunch of bloom.—
“Tell her,” he said, “I loved her smile.”
      The dear old man!  How rare my room
      With fair hepaticas!  Dear you!
      You went so far to bring me these!

175

That gladsome voice I never knew
To flinch in all her agonies.


IX

                    
FLOWN


TO-DAY our Office friends declare,—
“Fate gave to her a hopeless part,
And wondrous was her pluck to bear

180

So long that knowledge at her heart.
Stretched straining on the rack of pain
She dwelt, it seemed, as one in bliss,
Yet who that knew her lot is fain
To weep that she has peace like this?”

185


But they, whose faithful hearts believed
They knew her lot, were never told
How strong her valorous soul conceived
That happy was her fate controlled. [Page 127]

Last night she told me,—“Though I lay

190

Withdrawn by bodily pangs from mirth,
There could not be a lovelier way
To live than you made mine on earth.
Your love was summer’s bloom and leaf,
It tranced my narrow strip of blue,

195

It touched my cheeks in zephyrs brief
That purely strengthened me anew;
It haloed City cloud and hill,
From clanging streets it fashioned song,
And when Night’s pealing chimes fell still

200

Its murmuring music trembled long.
Oh, love, you were my halcyon calm,
You were my mystic chrism that blest,
And your dear arms the lulling balm
That soothes me now to thankful rest.”

205


X

                  
ENSHRINED


SINCE Lois died the tyrant Sun
Drags haggard in his orbit bound
This puppet Earth, whose seasons run
For me an aimless, wasted round.

Incessantly I think to die,

210

Nor ever doubt that Death is Peace,
And many an hour I ponder why
My soul desists from her release.

I do not dread the crash of pain
For one loud moment at the close,

215

Nor shrink to taste the slow, inane,
Pervasive opiate’s repose. [Page 128]

But in my saddest trances still
Her steadfast soul upholdeth mine
To endure till it be Nature’s will

220

My heart shall cease to be her shrine. [Page 129]